Unlocking Legacy – An Evocative Combo

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Monday, March 31st – This month, Doug highlights a combo deck that’s been flying mostly under the radar for a few months. It uses that broken classic engine, Food Chain, with some oddball creatures from Lorwyn and beyond. See how to integrate the Future Sight Pacts into a consistent and powerful combination. Additionally, get an update on the Enchantress deck profiled last month in Unlocking Legacy.

We know this much about the Pacts: getting free things now is fantastic. If you’ve been following Vintage, you might have seen a deck called Platinum Oath. It uses Pact of Negation to back up an Oath of Druids. It then Oaths up a Platinum Angel and resolves the Pact trigger, avoiding the gameloss. The Pacts are a bit harder to use in Legacy; I could easily see them in Storm combo deck, but Duress or Thoughtseize would work just as well there. There’s an idea that’s been floating around on forums though that can use two of the Pacts with startling results.

The combo revolves around Food Chain and Evoke creatures from Lorwyn. Essentially, you evoke a creature and sacrifice it to Food Chain before you sacrifice it to the evoke trigger. Combined with the extra free mana from Food Chain, something like an Ingot Chewer will yield six mana of your choice for a single Red mana. Not a bad deal. The Food Chain trick also works with Echo creatures and the sort-of-hybrid-cards from Ravnica like Court Hussar.

Some of the decklists I’ve seen run Imperial Recruiter to get the goods, but apart from not having or encouraging anyone to drop $200 on a set, there are other reasons why you don’t need them. Fierce Empath is the critical one for me. It’s a fine tutor that still gets basically whatever you need, and it’s Green. That means that your Summoner’s Pact can find it. Hey, redundancy! It also acts as a good stepping-stone up to the higher-mana cards to run.

We could also build this deck with Enlightened Tutor. I’m not such a fan, because drawing one mid-combo would be depressing. Instead, among Court Hussar, Mulldrifter and Raven Familiar, we can see plenty of cards and fuel the combo along. The Islands in the upper right corner make Force of Will come alive as well. I also like Ponder; you see four cards, and in a deck absent of shuffle effects, it’s better than Brainstorm.

So how do we kill? Kokusho is out of the running, as Food Chain removes the creatures from play. They never trigger graveyard effects. I tried out Maga, Traitor to Mortals. The problem there is that you absolutely need to go off for lethal damage with it; making 23, perhaps more, mana is hard in the deck. Maga means that you can’t win small using Pacts and ride it out. Similarly, Storm Entity isn’t going to be getting to lethal numbers quickly. Neither cards can be searched out with Fierce Empath either. I feel that the best win here is Platinum Angel. It enables you to run both Green and Blue Pacts. Getting it out into play, though, requires a few stepping stones.

When I was coming up with a list for the deck, I found that there are essentially three kinds of creatures you run. There are cheap mana-producing ones, the Blue drawing suite, and some really big nasties that Empath gets. Though I haven’t seen it come up in many other lists, I run three Ingot Chewers in mine; the cost to benefit ratio mana-wise means that you can play Food Chain and combo off that turn. It’s considerably harder to do the same with three-cost drawing cards. Birds of Paradise are another idea, but they don’t give the explosive start that the Chewers do.

After you’ve assembled a big pile of multicolored mana, the next step is to generally go get Myojin of the Seeing Winds and play it. You will draw six or seven cards and have enough gas to keep the mana coming. The next play is generally Myojin of Night’s Reach, clearing the opponent’s hand of any creature-kill cards that would disrupt the final part of the plan. A Myojin of Infinite Rage would be neat here too, preventing the topdecked Krosan Grip that would stand in the way, but I’m not sure it’s needed. The final play is to find and get Platinum Angel; having done the previous drawing with your Myojin and Blue card drawing creatures, this is just an academic exercise. The massive draw will leave you with Force of Will and Pact of Negation in hand to shut down any topdecked responses from the opponent.

Adding in utility creatures like Harmonic Sliver and Thornscape Battlemage round out the list. Thorny is both fetchable with Summoner’s Pact and kills Pikulas dead (if anyone plays that anymore). You can pay the kickers with Food Chain mana if you need to. Since the primary mana needs of the deck are just getting Food Chain out, I run City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb and the rainbow lands Gemstone Mine and City of Brass. An Elvish Spirit Guide turns Summoner’s Pact into a Green mana. All this yields the following list:

A sample hand and subsequent play is the following:

You open a hand of:

City of Brass
City of Traitors
Summoner’s Pact
Ingot Chewer
Food Chain
Food Chain
Fierce Empath

Without interference from the opponent, this will do serious stuff on the second turn, depending on the card we draw for the next turn. Here’s how:

You play the City of Brass and pass the turn.

The draw for the next turn is a second Fierce Empath. Great! Play the City of Traitors and then cast Summoner’s Pact to get an Elvish Spirit Guide. Channel the Guide and play out Food Chain, leaving the City open. Evoke the Chewer, making six Green mana.

One then plays both Empaths, getting Platinum Angel and Myojin of Night’s Reach. Play the Myojin first, wiping out the opponent’s hand, and then play the Angel. So you didn’t exactly win on the second turn, but you’ve got a hand and Platinum Angel to an opponent who may have just Mountain to show.

In another sample game, I mulliganed to five and ended up with:

City of Brass
City of Brass
Food Chain
Ingot Chewer

It’s not an amazing hand, but I bring this example up to show how the deck can slow-roll a bad hand into a combolicious one. Playing a City and the Ponder on the first turn, I saw Fierce Empath, City of Traitors and Pact of Negation on top. I drew the City, leaving the Empath on top of the Pact. The goal at this point was to play the Food Chain on the third turn or later with counter backup. The hand needs a little something extra, as the Empath will not fund a Myojin of Seeing Winds by itself.

I drew for the turn and played the second City of Brass. On the third turn, I can play City of Traitors and evoke the Ingot Chewer for six mana, funneling it into the Empath but being unable to do much else with it. If I cast the Pact, I could grab Platinum Angel and at least save myself from dying. One of the downsides of skipping the Recruiters is that with them, you can chain them into each other and make four more mana than what you started with. This can couple with an Empath at the end of the chain and keep the combo rolling.

Drawing for the next turn, I get the Blue Myojin. Not a card I was hoping to see! The next card on top is Ingot Chewer #2, meaning that I could make a passel of mana, play the Blue Myojin and draw five cards. Then I could use the Empath to get the Black Myojin or Platinum Angel, depending on what I drew. At that point, I’d be in decently good shape for securing a win.

So now we get to the really tough questions. First, why bother with this deck? I think it’s a really neat concept and unlike lots of other neat concepts, it doesn’t tragically suck. It really only loses to a Krosan Grip off the top of the deck if you’ve got the combo going. Additionally, you can slow-roll the combo, building up five or six mana and then playing the Food Chain with lots of counter backup. You support a lot of free cards like Pact of Negation that make for a smoother ride. Ultimately, like a lot of deck choices in Legacy, personal preference can come in. It really does feel like a Johnny deck and it’s a neat feeling to have two Myojins and an Angel beating down for a kill. Apart from that, to be honest, I’m really unsure of why you’d prefer this over something like Aluren, both of which revolve around combos with creatures. In this deck’s defense, the combo can be executed without ever passing priority in a vulnerable way, which means you aren’t going to get shut out by Swords to Plowshares.

Part of this uncertainty is feeling like I am not building the deck correctly. There are simply so many options to put in the shell, it makes it hard to choose the correct ones. For example, should I be running Ingot Chewers? They’re useless except for mana acceleration, but they make Pacts better in that they speed up the turn that you can kill. Should I be running Green dual lands to support free creatures like Skyshroud Cutter? If you look at my example hand above, having a Mournwhelk would have given me a stepping-stone card to make eight mana and then I could have gotten the Blue Myojin with my leftovers, perhaps drawing one of the draw-three creatures and ending up with Angel in play and an incredible pile of countermagic in hand.

Because of this building uncertainty, I haven’t logged the testing I would want to put into a deck before I endorsed it as something to bring to a tournament. This does leave open the opportunity for members of the community to chime in and tweak with the deck and figure out how to step up the mana correctly. I’m sure there are perfectly playable versions of the combo that use Enlightened Tutors or Imperial Recruiters to combo out. It’s certainly a strange feeling to see how many options there are, and it is daunting to try to figure out the best avenues to approach building it. It’s a deck in need of a few dedicated Johnnies to test out all the possibilities (and fall in love with it in the process).

This is to say nothing of the sideboard. I’d give the nod to creature-based sideboard cards like Wispmare or Xantid Swarm (covered in BEEEES!) to deal with problems. One of the luxuries of combo decks in Legacy is a wide-open sideboard. I doubt that you’d need a lot of artifact hate, as Ingot Chewer and Thornscape Battlemage both eat them for lunch. Again, thoughts on the forums are most welcome.

As a postscript, I want to talk about Enchantress a little. I want to address the matchups more, but with my work schedule amping up and application obligations continuing, I haven’t had the chance to really sit down and produce good testing results. One of the factors is that the build I was working with changed, due to suggestions from posters in response to the last article. One excellent venue for change is to swap the Black-producing dual lands out for a Moat, which will run about the same as the two combined. Another excellent one is replacing the maindecked City of Solitude with Chokes. I am thrilled with this idea. The Chokes are about as dead as the Cities are in non-Blue matchups, but when relevant, they are game-swinging.

Additionally, replacing the Sacred Ground with a maindecked Karmic Justice is another good move. You protect yourself from Engineered Explosives at 3 to an extent. I was bouncing around the idea of running an Opalescence as a kill condition as well. It seems a lot better than Hoofprints of the Stag and makes all those cards you draw later on into actual beaters. I can see its utility outside of a big combo turn, well. For those keeping score at home, the current list I am testing with is:

4 Argothian Enchantress

1 Aura Of Silence
3 Choke
4 Elephant Grass
4 Enchantress’s Presence
2 Exploration
2 Ground Seal
3 Oblivion Ring
1 Karmic Justice
1 Sacred Mesa
2 Solitary Confinement
3 Sterling Grove
4 Utopia Sprawl
1 Words Of War
1 Moat

2 Replenish

Basic Lands
9 Forest
3 Plains

3 Savannah
1 Taiga
4 Windswept Heath

Legendary Lands
2 Serra’s Sanctum

3 Karmic Justice
4 Leyline Of The Void
2 Krosan Grip
2 Replenish
1 Seal of Primordium

(This sideboard is only twelve cards)

In most matchups, I think it’s correct to bring in the extra Karmic Justices. Your combo is essentially Sterling Grove + Solitary Confinement, so punishing an opponent who breaks that up is necessary to stay in the game. If Goblins wipes with world with Tranquil Domain, you’ll want the capability to obliterate their board to prevent them from swinging for a win. The list above doesn’t integrate an Opalescence, as the idea is still nascent. I would look at replacing the Sacred Mesa with it, though.

Thanks for sticking with me. Next month, I’ll have Enchantress tips, comments about Shadowmoor and more! If you think you can improve the Food Chain Evoke deck, please post your thoughts in the forums.

Until next time…

Doug Linn
HiVal on the interwebs